Italia Ristorante and Pizzeria, which opened last fall on South Main Street in Athens, celebrated its grand opening Monday with a ribbon cutting and free tastings.

Owners Vincent and Marge Cantale were joined by family members, restaurant staff, representatives of the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce and Athens Business Association, Athens Borough mayor George Whyte and state Rep. Tina Pickett for Monday's ribbon cutting.

Patrons packed the restaurant for six hours Monday to sample a complimentary tasting menu, including pizza, garlic knots, pasta dishes, clams, chicken parmesan, cannoli and drinks.

Special help came from staff members Monday including "pizza man" Richie Egan, chef de cuisine Hozkar Nunez, cooks Dominick Burke and Tim Ortiz and waitress Sara Brackel. The Cantales' grandchildren, Alexa Cantale-Darby and Jack Barrett, also helped around the restaurant Monday.

Italia opened in October after several months of renovations to the building at 232 S. Main St., one of the properties damaged in the Sept. 2011 flood. Since opening, business at the restaurant has been strong, said marketing director Joe Spagnoli.

"We're happy to be in Athens," Spagnoli said. "We've had great support from everyone in Athens, and we hope to see Athens thrive."

In addition to pizza, the restaurant serves stromboli, calzones, sandwiches, wraps, pasta and other meals and offers take-out, delivery and catering. For more information, call Italia at (570) 888-8900.

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: